Family Foundations

The Council on Foundations defines a family foundation as one whose funds are derived from members of a single family, though this is not a legal term and has no precise definition. The Council on Foundations suggests that family foundations have at least one family member serving as an officer or board member of the foundation and, as the donor, that individual (or a relative) must play a significant role in governing and/or managing the foundation. Most family foundations are run by family members who serve as trustees or directors on a voluntary basis. In many cases, second- and third-generation descendants of the original donors manage the foundation.

Family foundations make up over half of all private (family, corporate, independent, and operating) foundations, or 40,456 out of approximately 73,764 foundations (Foundation Center, 2011). Family foundations make up approximately one-third of the Council’s membership.

Family foundations range in asset size from a few hundred thousand dollars to more than $1 billion. The holdings of family foundations total approximately $294 billion, or about 44 percent of all foundation holdings of $662 billion. Despite this, three out of five family foundations hold assets of less than $1 million. Family foundations gave away approximately $21.3 billion in grants in 2011 (The Foundation Center, 2011).

Below is everything on our site for family foundations. You can use the filtering options on the right to narrow these results.

Slide presentation that covers:

  • An overview of the development and use of Mission and Values statements
  • Development of Mission statements for family foundations
  • Development of Values statements for family foundations
  • Applying Mission and Values statements

This resource from Sibyl Hite of the Hite Foundation provides insight into what information you might be looking for when conducting a site visit.

This perspective offered by William Graustein of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund will provide useful context on creating your own foundation's mission and vision statements. 

This perspective from Sally Bowles of the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation will provide useful insight into grantmaking issues encountered by many family philanthropies.

Merede Graham of the Namaste Foundation offers her perspective about how generational succession is helping shape her foundation.

As you prepare to close out grants, this customizable checklist can help ensure you've received the appropriate documents from grantees.

This customizable sample closing letter may be sent to grantees upon the conclusion of their grant.

This sample grant close-out form can help you wrap up outstanding grants.

Not necessarily. While some family foundations prefer that all trustees be family members, others find that a few outside voices can enrich the process

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